Young Volunteers in Bhopal set-up a Covid-19 Helpline in Government Hospitals


Samvaad Covid-19 Helpline team

Whether it’s updating families on the health status of Covid patients or helping them say their last goodbyes, Samvaad Covid-19 Helpline is a humane initiative that helps provide some respite to the families facing grave times. Read ahead to know more.

Act of Kindness

Kenbin, a teenager with Down syndrome, contracted coronavirus in October. His parents, who hail from Itarsi, admitted him to Hamidia hospital situated in Bhopal to seek treatment. Knowing her child’s special condition, his mother had a terrible time keeping herself calm without knowing what was going to happen. She reached out to Samvaad Covid-19 Helpline number, the office of which was already located in Hamidia. The volunteers of the team were willing to help her. They kept her updated on Kenbin’s condition and counselled her as well. Kenbin recently got discharged and is doing quite well. His family was grateful for the efforts of the kindhearted volunteers who worked relentlessly to help them stay in contact with each other.

The Issue of Isolation

Due to the meteoric rise in coronavirus cases globally, the aforementioned anecdote is not uncommon in hospitals these days. The communication gap between the patient and their kin can be extremely isolating and anxiety-provoking. The presence of geared up doctors and nurses can feel mechanical and intimidating to a patient who already has a fearful state of mind. Therefore, maintaining a sense of human contact between the patient and his/her family, however virtual, becomes imperative. The volunteers at Samvaad Covid-19 Helpline are doing just that.

The Beginnings

This initiative is the brainchild of Rachna Dhingra who was already working as a social worker for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims before the pandemic struck. She was able to set up this helpline in a small office in Hamidia Hospital with the students of Bhopal School of Social Sciences. The Covid-19 Helpline keeps people updated with the health status of their family members, arrange video/audio calls for moderate and critical Covid patients, and procure information for those seeking bed availability in this hospital. Samvaad serves as a blessing for approximately 60% of economically disadvantaged people who are admitted to Hamidia’s Covid wards.

The Functioning of the System

The Samvaad Covid-19 Helpline runs in two shifts- first from 8 AM till 2 PM and the second from 2 PM till 8 PM. Rachna and her team have installed a few tablets and phones in the Covid wards. Whenever a relative calls, they connect their call from their office with the ward in which the patient is present. “We try to wait for at least 5-6 calls to come in, as we cannot constantly disturb doctors who are already working so diligently,” says Rachna. For video conferencing purposes, they have been allotted certain slots in which families can make video calls. To date, the team has corresponded with 1543 audio calls and 258 video calls.

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Challenges Faced

The program has faced its own set of challenges while trying to function in a government-run facility. One of the biggest setbacks is the insufficient number of tablets and smartphones which are crucial in the proper functioning of this initiative. Apart from this, bureaucratic kerfuffle hinders their operations as the hospital staff sometimes does not share important patient details which could otherwise help the families.

Spirit of Volunteerism

However, these minor setbacks did not dampen the spirits of the volunteers who are trying to make a difference in their community. At present, Samvaad has nine student volunteers who are offering their services. They were briefly trained by a couple of doctors for counseling people and also in maintaining their own personal hygiene. The program is safe for the volunteers as they do not come in direct contact with the doctors or the patients. They have also counseled and grieved with the bereaved families who lost their loved ones.“This has been the greatest learning experience of all. If we all set aside our differences and look past our personal struggles, we can make a great deal of difference with compassion and understanding, in jarring times such as these,” says Sana Azhar, a volunteer. 

Samvaad Helpline volunteers

You may also like to read:  Group of volunteers in Bengaluru is performing the last rites of Covid deceased like a family.

Hopes for the Future

The members of Samvaad hope that other hospitals across Madhya Pradesh would take up this program as a model and introduce these measures on their premises as well. Besides aiming to make some institutional changes in the hospital administration, they would also like to bring up the issue of MCCD (Medical Certification of Cause of Death), in which the cause of death for a coronavirus patient is not disclosed in the certification, something that needs to be addressed urgently.

The work these people are doing is no less than that of a warrior. Their motto- Covid-19 takes people away from their families, Samvaad helps them stay connected, seems to fit perfectly in this scenario.

How to contact Samvaad

For queries regarding health updates, video calls, beds availability, and volunteer duty contact: 0755-4004633

The program requires new/used androids, tablets, and laptops to be made available in different wards in the hospital. They also are in constant need of volunteers to help them run the process smoothly. The team is ensuring all the precautions and maintaining a safe environment for the volunteers. If you wish to help them with time or resources, reach out to them at 9111647543, 7021789156.

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